Bacchus [excerpt] Poem by Bernard O'Dowd

Bacchus [excerpt]

I am the gift of tongues that flame
Inspired resolve above:
I wither the weeds of paltry aim
That choke the growth of love.

Though sometimes thro' forbidden gates,
The drugged and drunken may
Intrude among initiates
And misconceive the play,

No self-indulgence walks my stage;
My frenzies make divine:
My banqueter is saint and sage,
A eucharist my wine:

No desecrated home shall be,
No vice-predestined birth,
No stews of maudlin gluttony,
When Bacchus rules the earth.

My rage that lit the cold Greek brow
And burned from Orphic lyre,
Flames down the years to Tolstoi now
And back to Celtic fire.

I glowed in Hermit Peter's words,
Savonarola's grim,
St. Francis understood the birds
Because I cherished him.

I am the surging Energy
No wintry Law can tame:
Nay, the god that overpowers me
Is Bacchus save in name.

'Tis not alone on Naxian sod
Or mythic welkin, where
Pale Ariadne meets her god,
And Bacchus gladdens her,

I shine as bright from Nietzsche's eyes
And grave Salvationist's,
As once in Soma sacrifice
Or through Thessalian mists.

And equally to fast and feast
I give my benison-
Now, Father Mathew is my priest,
And now Anacreon.

'Tis not enough that you avow
Allegiance at my gates;
Many who bear the wattle-bough
Are not initiates;

Nor all the revellers, though dear,
Who beat my doors with prayers,
But sing so sweet they cannot hear
The poor who knock at theirs:

For 'Truth for Truth' and 'Art for Art'
And Song for the sake of Song,
Must wait the turn of the breaking heart,
Till Bacchus purges Wrong.

All that in Love ye cannot buy,
In genius baffling prayer,
In Art beyond the measuring eye,
Is immanent Bacchus there.

But fearful are my Mystae when,
To Bacchanalian hymn,
They wrench the brute from the souls of men
And tear it limb from limb:

The old gods shuddered; for they saw
Their altar flames expire
Before the breath of a Higher Law
That crucifies Desire:

The old priests paled; till some more wise
Built fanes where're I trod,
Carried my throne to Olympian skies,
And named me the Son of God. . . .

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